Royal Mail has issued stamps commemorating many aspects of World War 2 in the past (you can see many of them in our online exhibition World War 2 in Stamps), but these have tended to focus on military personnel and military achievements. In a new set of stamps released today, entitled Britain Alone, Royal Mail pays tribute to those who stayed at home and kept the country running.
Civil defence organisations, and the work and sacrifices of ordinary civilians, were vital to Britain’s survival during the 2nd World War. To ensure an increase in food production, millions of women were called on to replace conscripted men on farms as part of the Women’s Land Army, members of which were commonly known as Land Girls.
In the cities and towns, groups of local volunteers, often First World War veterans, joined the Home Guard, who were ready to fight in the event of an enemy invasion. Also important were the Air Raid Wardens, who were responsible for enforcing a blackout during enemy bombing raids.
The Britain Alone issue sees all of these civilian organisations represented on British stamps for the first time, along with the many women who took on factory work during the war, and the Fire Service, who were particularly vital during the Battle of Britain.
Also commemorated, are wartime Prime Minister Winston Churchill, a man who is no stranger to British stamps, seen inspecting the Home Guard; the Royal Princesses, the future Queen Elizabeth II and her sister Princess Margaret (making her first appearance on a British stamp?), pictured making a morale boosting broadcast to the children of the Commonwealth; and some of the three million evacuees, many of them children, who were relocated to the countryside to be away from the bombs.
To accompany the British Alone issue is a miniature sheet commemorating the mass evacuation of Dunkirk, the nine day operation which saw more than 300,000 British, French, Canadian and Belgium troops, trapped on the beaches of western France by the advancing German army. A combination of destroyers, large ships and around 700 smaller ships, including fishing vessels, merchant ships, pleasure craft and lifeboats, ferried the troops to safety in Britain. This remarkable mobilisation is still remembered with pride, and was most recently evoked as a possible solution to the volcanic ash cloud crisis, which saw thousands of British tourists trapped in Europe.
Two pictorial ‘first day of issue postmarks’ have been produced to accompany Britain Alone, both of which feature famous propaganda slogans of the period. One of them, Keep Calm and Carry On, has recently become popular, appearing on merchandise and inspiring a recent advertising campaign for the Police.
A variety of Britain Alone products are available from Royal Mail.
Royal Mail have have released a video about the new Britain Alone stamps: